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room and sit silent for hours. But we rather think that the conversation, where Mr. Haydon was, resembled that in a young author's first play, where the other interlocutors are only brought in as convenient points for the hero to hitch the interminable web of his monologue on. Besides, Keats had been continuing his education this year, by a course of Elgin marbles and pictures by the great Italians, and might very naturally bave found little to say about Mr. Haydon's extensive works, which he would have cared to hear. Mr. Milnes, on the other hand, in his eagerness to prove that Keats was not killed by the article in the Quarterly, is carried too far toward the opposite extreme, and more than hints that he was not even hurt by it. This would have been true of Wordsworth, who, by a constant companionship with mountains, had acquired something of their manners, but was simply impossible to a man of Keats's temperament.
On the whole, perhaps, we need not respect Keats the less for having been gifted with sensibility, and may even say what we believe to be true, that his health was injured by the failure of his book. A man cannot have a sensuous nature and be pachydermatous at the same time, and if he be imaginative as well as sensuous, he suffers just in proportion to the amount of his imagination. It is perfectly true that what we call the world, in these affairs, is nothing more than a mere Brocken spectre, the projected shadow of ourselves ; but as long as we do not know it, it is a very passable giant. We are not without experience of natures so purely intellectual that their bodies had no more concern in their mental doings and sufferings, than a house has with the good or ill fortune of its occupant. But poets are not built on this plan, and especially poets like Keats, in whom the moral seems to have so perfectly interfused the physical man, that you might almost say he could feel sorrow with his hands, so truly did his body, like that of Donnes mistress, think and remember and forebode. The healthiest poet of whom our civilization has been capable says that when he beholds
“ desert a beggar born,
And art made tongue-tied by authority," (alluding, plainly enough, to the Giffords of his
“ And simple truth miscalled simplicity,"
(as it was long afterward in Wordsworth's case,)
“ And Captive Good attending Captain Ill, that then even he, the poet to whom of all others, life seems to have been dearest, as it was also the fullest of enjoyment, " tired of all these," had nothing for it but to cry for “restful Death."
Keats, as we have said, accepted his ill fortune courageously. On the 9th October, 1818, he writes
to his publisher, Mr. Hessey, “I cannot but feel indebted to those gentlemen who have taken my part. As for the rest, I begin to get acquainted with my own strength and weakness. Praise or blame has but a momentary effect on the man whose love of beauty in the abstract makes him a severe critic of his own works. My own domestic criticism has given me pain without comparison beyond what “Blackwood” or the “ Quarterly could inflict: and also, when I feel I am right, no external praise can give me such a glow as my own solitary reperception and ratification of what is fine. J. S. is perfectly right in regard to "the slipshod Endymion.” That it is so is no fault of mine. No! though it may sound a little
paradoxical, it is as good as I had power to make it by myself. Had I been nervous about its being a perfect piece, and with that view asked advice and trembled over every page, it would not have been written ; for it is not in my nature to fumble. I will write independently. I have written independently without judgment. I may write independently and with judgment, hereafter. The Genius of Poetry must work out its own salvation in a man. It cannot be matured by law and precept, but by sensation and watchfulness in itself. That which is creative must create itself. In “ Endymion” I leaped headlong into the sea, and thereby have become better acquainted with the soundings, the quicksands and the rocks, than if I had stayed upon the green shore, and piped a silly pipe, and took tea and comfortable advice. I was never afraid of failure; for I would sooner fail than not be among the greatest.” *
This was undoubtedly true, and it was naturally the side which a large-minded person would display to a friend. This is what he thought, but whether it was what he felt, we think doubtful. We look upon it rather as one of the phenomena of that multanimous nature of the poet, which makes him for the moment that which he has an intellectual perception of. Elsewhere he says something which seems to hint at the true state of the case.
“I must think that difficulties nerve the spirit of a man: they make our prime objects a refuge as well as a passion.” One cannot help contrasting Keats with Wordsworth; the one altogether poet, the other essentially a Wordsworth with the poetic faculty added; the one shifting from form to form, and from style to style, and pouring his hot throbbing life into. every mould ; the other remaining always the individual, producing works, and not so much living in his poems, as memorially recording his life in them. When Wordsworth alludes to the foolish criticisms on his writings, he speaks serenely and generously of Wordsworth the poet,
* Milnes's Life and Letters of Keats, pp. 145–6.
as if he were an unbiased third person, who takes up the argument merely in the interest of literature. He towers into a bald egotism which is quite above and beyond selfishness. Poesy was his employment; it was Keats's very existence, and he felt the rough treatment of his verses as if it had been the wounding of a limb. To Wordsworth, composing was a healthy exercise; his slow pulse and unimpressible nature gave him assurance of a life so long that he could wait ; and when we read his poems we should never suspect the existence in him of any sense but that of observation, as if Wordsworth the poet were only a great sleepless eye, accompanied by Mr. Wordsworth, the distributer of stamps, as a reverential scribe and Baruch. But every one of Keats's poems was a sacrifice of vitality; a virtue went away from him into every one of them ; even yet, as we turn the leaves, they seem to warm and thrill our fingers with the flush of his fine senses, and the futter of his electrical nerves, and we do not wonder he felt that what he did was to be done swiftly.
In the mean time, his younger brother languished and died; his elder seems to have been in some way unfortunate, and had gone to America, and Keats himself showed symptoms of the hereditary disease which caused his death at last. It is in October, 1818, that we find the first allusion to a passion, wbich was, ere long, to consume